United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Jonesboro Division
GENE E. HARDESTY PLAINTIFF
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT
September 8, 2014, Gene E. Hardesty applied for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning on March 31, 2013.
(Tr. at 16) Mr. Hardesty's claims were denied initially
and upon reconsideration. Id. After conducting a
hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) denied Mr.
Hardesty's application. (Tr. at 24-25) Mr. Hardesty
requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's
decision, but that request was denied. (Tr. at 3) Therefore,
the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
Commissioner. Mr. Hardesty filed this case seeking judicial
review of the decision denying benefits.
The Commissioner's Decision:
found that Mr. Hardesty had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged onset date of March 31,
2013. (Tr. at 18) At step two of the five-step analysis, the
ALJ found that Mr. Hardesty had the following severe
impairments: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, coronary
artery disease, hypertension, and gout. Id.
finding that these impairments did not meet or equal a listed
impairment (Tr. at 19), the ALJ determined that Mr. Hardesty
had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform the
full range of work at the sedentary exertional level, with
some restrictions. (Tr. at 19-20) He could not perform foot
control operations. Id. He could have no exposure to
fumes, odors, dusts, or gases. Id. He could have no
exposure to temperature extremes of hot or cold. Id.
found that Mr. Hardesty was unable to perform any of his past
relevant work. (Tr. at 23) Then, relying on the testimony of
a Vocational Expert (VE), the ALJ found, based on age,
education, work experience and RFC, that Mr. Hardesty could
perform work in the national economy as lamp shade assembler
and general office clerk. (Tr. at 24) The ALJ determined,
therefore, that Mr. Hardesty was not disabled. Id.
Standard of Review
Court's role is to determine whether the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Prosch v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 1010, 1012 (8th
Cir. 2000). “Substantial evidence” in this
context means “enough that a reasonable mind would find
it adequate to support he ALJ's decision.”
Slusser v. Astrue, 557 F.3d 923, 925 (8th Cir.
2009)(citation omitted). In making this determination, the
Court must consider not only evidence that supports the
Commissioner's decision, but also evidence that supports
a contrary outcome. The Court cannot reverse the decision,
however, “merely because substantial evidence exists
for the opposite decision.” Long v. Chater,
108 F.3d 185, 187 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted).
Hardesty's Arguments on Appeal
appeal, Mr. Hardesty maintains that the ALJ's decision to
deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence. He
argues that the RFC did not fully incorporate all of his
limitations and that the ALJ did not properly analyze
Hardesty had some hospitalizations for chest pain related to
coronary artery disease. But in October 2012, a stress test
revealed no coronary artery disease. (Tr. at 266) Cardiac
exam showed normal rate and rhythm. (Tr. at 254) Chest x-ray
showed no acute findings. (Tr. at 257) Normal examination
findings are not indicative of disabling conditions.
Gowell v. Apfel, 242 F.3d 793, 796 (8th Cir. 2001).
Mr. Hardesty was treated conservatively.
November 2012, Mr. Hardesty's hypertension was noted to
be controlled, but he underwent surgery for repair of his
femoral artery. (Tr. at 263-264). When he was released from
the hospital two days later, his pain was controlled, and he
could ambulate. Id. At that time, he had a normal
EKG and another normal chest x-ray. (Tr. at 386)
Hardesty presented to the ER in March and April 2013 for
chest pain. A cardiac x-ray showed slight dextroscoliosis and
interstitial markings, but normal heart size. (Tr. at 335) In
June 2014, Mr. Hardesty returned to the hospital with chest
pain, but was in no acute distress; and an EKG and telemetry
test was normal. (Tr. at 378) Upon discharge the following
day, Mr. Hardesty was asymptomatic. Id. He was
placed on a low salt diet. Id. The need for only
conservative treatment contradicts allegations of disabling
pain. Smith v. Shalala, 987 F.2d 1371, 1374 (8th
Cir. 1993). In November 2014 and November 2015, Mr.
Hardesty's angina was stable. (Tr. at 606-614) He
admitted that nitroglycerin helped with ...